Dr Kunle Efunnuga is a Ukraine-trained surgeon who returned to Nigeria in 2001 to set up Hope Home Hospital. He graduated from the National Medical Institute of Ukraine and obtained a PhD in Surgery from the Ukrainian Institute of Postgraduate Studies in Kharkov. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, he outlines factors that can transform the Nigerian healthcare delivery system. Passionate about the welfare of the average Nigerian citizen, Efunnuga believes that the provision of job opportunities and basic necessities can help put an end to the many societal aberrations bedeviling the country, including those in the medical profession. Excerpts:
How would you compare medical practice in Europe with that of Nigeria? What do you think we are doing better or otherwise?
First, you cannot compare the two because we are here in the tropics and our kind of Medicine is different from their own. The bulk of our Medicine is different from theirs. What I can categorically tell you is that we are a bit backward in terms of technology because we have not really invested in it.
Surgeons over there are far ahead of those here because while they have been talking about robotic surgery, we are still tearing and cutting here. You just can’t compare. They are two different worlds apart.
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be taking more lives than the first, yet, many people still believe it is a scam used by the government to garner foreign monetary aid. What advice do you have for such people?
The problem is everywhere. It is not peculiar to Nigeria. In the United Kingdom, there are people who are against the use of face masks. They believe that the social restrictions brought about by COVID-19 are forms of enslavement; and so, they want to be free by protesting against the safety protocols.
Government is trying to force people to comply. It is a universal problem. Another factor is that those who have not experienced the virus may not actually believe it exists. It is unlike people who have experienced it directly or indirectly.
Above all, I would say that people’s refusal to accept that the coronavirus is real should be seen as a world problem that is not peculiar to any particular nation. My children who school in Ukraine tell me that you cannot visit any public place without a face mask. At all entry points, you will find people who sell them and you must comply or risk arrest.
The only advice I have for those who are still doubting the existence of the virus is that, it has come to stay and it is very real. Even though our government may not be trusted when it comes to managing money, I believe we should have it in our minds that COVID-19 is real.
The Federal Government says it has invested so much in the country’s primary healthcare system but you still find people dying of common ailments like malaria. What really is the problem?
You cannot claim to have invested so much in the primary health care when there are no drugs available, even in the teaching hospitals. You remember that there was a time the First Lady was complaining about the sorry state of Aso Rock clinic, in spite of the billions of naira that successive government have spent on it.
Our people are corrupt. They see every opportunity as a window to embezzle money. They don’t care what happens to other people; all they want is to steal and acquire illicit wealth. Until our mentality changes and until we begin to see ourselves as brothers and sisters, things will not change.
The prevalence of quacks and fake drugs seems higher in low-brow areas. People who are not even qualified as patent medicine dealers perform abortions and surgeries. What is the NMA doing about this?
The NMA cannot be running after such people because they have other pressing issues to talk about. The government and the pharmaceutical regulatory agencies should be proactive.
In a normal country, you can’t just go to the counter and buy a drug. Again, factors like unemployment have made things worse here. People will always find a way to survive, no matter how you try to stop them. Trying to stop them is like chasing the wind and trying to catch it. You can’t catch the wind. Government must provide jobs for the people to keep them out of such unwholesome practices.
If you were consultant to the Federal Government on health, what advice would you give for the betterment of the Nigerian health sector?
The sector is very defective. The Bible says, “If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” When many aspects of our national life is faulty, others will automatically be affected.
What is working in Nigeria? Is it electricity? Is it security? See the way Fulani herdsmen are killing people and the government is not saying anything about it. The president is not talking and culprits are not being arrested.
So many things have to be changed in this country without looking at anybody’s face. Most importantly, when job opportunities are created, people will think less of going into illegal ventures. Before anything can work in Nigeria, good laws that would favour all agencies must be made. We need to sit down and re-organise the country.